Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch
~ A Gentleman Bastards Review ~
Arguably the most anticipated book of 2013, Republic of Thieves is set to sweep into readers hands everywhere on October 10th, a return to the exploits of Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen that has been due for 6 years. The question that will be on everyones minds as they crack that spine or boot up their ebook – Was the wait worth it?
The answer? Yes.
Now as you all should know that one word isn’t the end of the story. In fact, it’s barely a beginning. More specifically, Scott Lynch has delivered to us the next installment in the Gentleman Bastard Sequence and in some aspects it delivers marvelously.
The inner workings of the Bondsmagi are explored, theories on the Eldren and their disappearance are presented, we’re finally introduced to Sabetha, and more importantly Locke’s past is addressed. Although, where Republic of Thieves soars it also, unfortunately, stumbles. The story isn’t nearly as gripping, the sections set in the past serve a meaningless purpose, and the setup for the next book, Thorn of Emberlain, is lackluster at best.
Republic of Thieves is structured like the past books in the series. Split between two stories: one in the present, the other in the past. In both The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies this was used to great affect to inform the present while illuminating the past. In other words, a clever trick to keep the reader informed while maintaing forward momentum.
The present story follows not long after Red Seas Under Red Skies ends, Locke is on the verge of death; poisoned and a skeleton of the gangly man he once was. Yet a deal struck with a Bondsmagi sees Locke to live another day, that is provided Jean and him participate in rigging the elections in the Bondsmagi capitol Karthain. Oh, and their opposition has hired the one person capable of besting Locke, Sabetha. Locke’s near mythical love interest from his past who has yet to make an appearance in the series by anything other than name.
The past brings the Gentleman Bastards crew back together, Sanza twins and all. Locke, Jean, the twins, and Sabetha must travel to train with a man who owes Father Chains a favor. A man that runs his own theatre troupe and wants to put on a special show known as the Republic of Thieves. It’s in the past that Locke and Sabetha’s relationship is explored, how they met, how they grew to care for one another, and ultimately how the Bastards became a team.
I can’t say enough great things about the worldbuilding surrounding the Bondsmagi and the detail that went into the play Republic of Thieves. The magic is explored a little further, the telepathic communications and sigils of the Bondsmagi are fun, and their “sport” of rigging the normal people of Karthain’s election is believably something a group of all-powerful mages would do.
The performances of the play, hampered only by the boring actual work of the past story, is brilliant. Lynch has the talent like few other writers to write other forms convincingly. Patrick Rothfuss manages to write bad poetry, on purpose, a task I would’ve thought impossible. Lynch writes entire scenes of a play that read like a period play. If you took an excerpt of the Republic of Thieves play and put Shakespeare’s name on it and handed it to someone, they would have no problem believing the great playwright wrote those lines. It’s brilliant.
The High King of many stories is the character development, which is understandable. You spend so much time with these characters, literally in their heads most of the time, you can’t help but grow a little attached. Yet in this particular book the character development was one of the ultimate downfalls, or at least for one of them.
Sabetha. The long-lost love interest of our scrawny master thief Locke makes her debut in these pages. It’s hard not to become smitten with this girl. She’s everything Locke is, and presented in a way that makes her seem far more capable and dare to say, sexier. She pulls off tricks and heists with a sense of grace that is hard not to admire. Not to say Locke doesn’t have his own fair share of miraculous exploits, however we often see the bumbling that goes with it. Upon closer examination you see this is all only a thin layer that betrays the lack of any real depth. She seems to serve as a foil to Locke and lacks any true motivation outside of her relationship with the Bastards.
Yet it’s Sabetha’s role in the past that hurts this book. She’s bland and rather pointless in many parts. Maybe that has to do in large part with the hype we’ve all built around this girl, how could she possibly live up to our expectations?
Is Republic of Thieves the amazing powerhouse everyone was expecting after 6 long years of waiting – probably not. Is it a well-written and overall thrilling book that will keep you engaged until late into the night – absolutely. There are 7 books left in the Gentleman Bastard Sequence with The Thorn of Emberlain being our next adventure with Locke Lamora. Keep your hopes tempered and your minds open. I have very high doubts Scott Lynch will ever truly let us down.
With what should have been the greatest heist of their career gone spectacularly sour, Locke and his trusted partner, Jean, have barely escaped with their lives. Or at least Jean has. But Locke is slowly succumbing to a deadly poison that no alchemist or physiker can cure. Yet just as the end is near, a mysterious Bondsmage offers Locke an opportunity that will either save him or finish him off once and for all.
Magi political elections are imminent, and the factions are in need of a pawn. If Locke agrees to play the role, sorcery will be used to purge the venom from his body—though the process will be so excruciating he may well wish for death. Locke is opposed, but two factors cause his will to crumble: Jean’s imploring—and the Bondsmage’s mention of a woman from Locke’s past: Sabetha. She is the love of his life, his equal in skill and wit, and now, his greatest rival.
Locke was smitten with Sabetha from his first glimpse of her as a young fellow orphan and thief-in-training. But after a tumultuous courtship, Sabetha broke away. Now they will reunite in yet another clash of wills. For faced with his one and only match in both love and trickery, Locke must choose whether to fight Sabetha—or to woo her. It is a decision on which both their lives may depend.